“Your Daddy Killed My Daddy”: A Deadly Game of Chicken

It is a tale of two shootings. One shooting became a legend. The other shooting became a mere “What were they thinking?” hiccup in history.
You know the legend:
The showdown: Just after 8 p.m. on February 8, 1887 Jim Courtright confronted Luke Short, who operated the gambling room over the White Elephant Saloon at 308 Main Street downtown. There was bad blood between the two men. And each man was only too aware of the reputation of the other as a gunfighter.
As Courtright and Short stood talking on the sidewalk outside the saloon, Short made a move that caused Courtright to think that Short was about to draw a gun on him. Courtright drew one of his forty-fives from its holster, but Short somehow got off the first shot. And the second. And the third.
Courtright never fired a shot.

The defense: After the shooting Short said, “I went out into the vestibule and saw Jim Courtright . . . and we had some quiet talk on private affairs. I reminded him of some past transactions, not in an abusive or reproachful manner, to which he assented but not in a very cordial way. I was standing with my thumbs in the armholes of my vest and had dropped them in front of me to adjust my clothing, when he remarked: ‘Well, you needn’t reach for your gun,’ and immediately put his hand to his hip pocket and pulled his. When I saw him do that, I pulled my pistol from my hip pocket, too, and began shooting, for I knew that his action meant death. He must have misconstrued my intention in dropping my hands before me. I was merely adjusting my clothing and never carry a pistol in that part of my dress.”

The cause of bad blood: Prior to the shooting, Courtright may have tried—unsuccessfully—to collect protection money from Short. A witness at the inquest testified that before the shooting Courtright had said that “dirt had been done him at the White Elephant.” Another witness testified that Courtright had said that “there was a combination against him at the White Elephant . . . that he hadn’t been treated with respect upstairs over the White Elephant.”

And now the hiccup.
Fast-forward in time thirty-six years and in distance three miles north of where Jim Courtright died.
The showdown: On the morning of May 9, 1923 Joseph H. Graham and David Lester Haynie confronted each other in the alley behind the men’s houses.
Graham had a pistol tucked into his belt. He saw Haynie suddenly move his hand to his hip pocket. Graham, thinking that Haynie was about to draw a pistol, drew his pistol and got off the first shot. And the second. And the third. And the fourth. And the fifth.
David Lester Haynie, like Jim Courtright, never fired a shot.

The defense: Graham said after his arrest, “Mr. Haynie cursed me . . . I went in the house to get my gun . . . In the meantime Mr. Haynie had gone back to his house after having threatened to kill me. He returned, and I supposed he had gotten his gun. He made another threat to kill me, and his hand went to his pocket.”

The cause of bad blood: chickens.
You read right.
Chickens. You know: Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Leghorns.

Joseph H. Graham and David Lester Haynie lived on Armour Street in Fostepco Heights (Diamond Hill) north of the stockyards. This map from 1919 shows Armour and Swift streets below Purity Serum Company, which was owned by John Kennedy.

By the time of the shooting in 1923 Purity Serum Company had been renamed “Globe Laboratories.” Graham, thirty-eight, was a shipping clerk at Globe. He no doubt walked the few blocks to work.

Haynie, thirty-four, was a carpenter. Each man had a wife and two young children.

In one way Graham and Haynie were alike and typical of many city dwellers of the time: They raised some of their own food. Graham grew a vegetable garden in his back yard; Haynie raised chickens in his back yard.

The two men were alike in another way: Graham had not fenced his garden; Haynie had not fenced his chickens.

The two men were alike in yet another way: Each was as stubborn as a . . . as a . . . as a man.

And therein lay the rub.

Haynie’s chickens were fond of “picking and scratching” in Graham’s garden, much to Graham’s irritation. Haynie’s chickens must have considered the Graham garden to be downright Edenic because they had to travel through two intervening back yards to reach it—a considerable trip for an animal with a stride of only a few inches and no GPS navigation.

On such occasions Graham would throw rocks at the chickens to clear them from his garden. He would complain to Haynie.

Graham even told Haynie where to get some wire fencing to “keep his chickens up.”

Hint, hint.

The conflict between the two men grew acrimonious.

Graham told Haynie that he had spent $18 ($280 today) on the garden and was going to get a shotgun and shoot the chickens if Haynie didn’t “keep the chickens up.”

Haynie warned Graham against shooting his chickens.

Graham later said that one night before the fatal shooting he was walking on a North Side street when a carload of men drove alongside and told him—in a threatening tone—that they wanted to talk to him. The men got out of their car and walked toward Graham. He drew his pistol, and the men drove away. Some of the men, Graham said, were “semimasked” and wore their collars high and their hats low, but Graham said he recognized Haynie among the men.

(In Fort Worth in 1923 men who obscured their identity, traveled in groups, and intimidated people could have been Ku Klux Klan members.)

Graham also later said that one night he received a phone call warning him that he would be “whipped” “unless I watched myself.”

(Flogging was a punishment meted out by the Klan.)

So that was the situation: Haynie’s chickens were “picking and scratching”; neighbors Graham and Haynie were feuding; and Graham was becoming paranoid.

All this set the tone for May 9—the day the fricassee hit the fan.

After the shooting the newly widowed Mrs. Haynie said, “This morning early Mr. Graham came to our home and told my husband if he didn’t keep his chickens up he was going to shoot him. . . . A few minutes later he [Mr. Haynie] saw Mr. Graham throwing [rocks] at some chickens, and he [Haynie] told me he was going up there to see if they were our chickens . . . . He [Haynie] had been gone but a few seconds when I heard the shots. My two little girl babies, who were standing in the window, screamed that their daddy was shot.”

Haynie daughter Willie Bee, age nine, said, “We . . . watched Daddy as he started up the alley. . . . when he was about halfway to the garden . . . Mr. Graham started shooting. Daddy ran and fell. Mother and we ran to him. She asked him if he was shot, and he said ‘yes.’ That was all—we didn’t even get to tell him goodbye.”

Neighbor Prunie Haynes said, “I saw the whole thing. Mr. Haynie was walking up the alley toward Mr. Graham’s garden. He was about halfway, and Mr. Graham was standing about twenty feet in front of him. . . . I heard Mr. Graham say: ‘You d—– son of a —–, you cursed me,’ and then he started shooting. By that time Mr. Haynie had stopped and had his back half turned to Mr. Graham. With the first shot Mr. Haynie turned and started running. There were three more shots in rapid succession, then a pause, and then the final fifth shot just as Mr. Haynie fell.”

Mrs. Graham said, “This morning my husband went down to Mr. Haynie’s and asked him to keep the chickens up. When my husband came back home he told me Haynie had cursed him and had gone in his house after a gun. He [Graham] said he had come home after his gun. He got it and went out again. I saw Mr. Haynie running up the alley toward my husband, throwing rocks. . . . My husband fired, and Haynie stopped, then my husband fired some more shots—I don’t know how many.”

After the shooting Graham emptied the spent shells from his pistol, went to the North Side police station, said he had shot a man, and surrendered. After being locked up, Graham asked for breakfast and a cigar.

Later that day Haynie’s daughter June, age seven, said to Graham’s son Philip, age eight: “Your daddy killed my daddy, and they’ve locked him up in jail and aren’t going to let him out.”

Investigators found no pistol on Haynie’s body. His widow said her husband did not own a gun.

The killing was the banner story in the Star-Telegram.

Top photo is a re-enactment showing the scene of the shooting and the path that Haynie (right) took toward Graham (left) before being shot and retreating. Bottom photo shows the two Haynie daughters June, seven, and Willie Bee, nine.

J. H. Graham was indicted for murder and went on trial on September 6.

On the first day of testimony District Attorney R. K. Hanger brought Haynie’s daughters June and Willie Bee into the courtroom as potential witnesses.

Hanger asked June, “Do you know what happens to little girls who don’t tell the truth?”

“They go to the bad place,” June said.

Judge George Hosey ruled that the daughters could not testify because they were too young to understand the “pains and penalties of perjury.”

(Note stories on the front page about Fort Worth’s mini-Mafia, the Beland family, and the Tokyo earthquake, whose death toll would surpass 140,000 people.)

After defendant Graham took the witness stand, District Attorney Hanger asked him if he had not killed a man years before but had been acquitted because his then-wife had testified in his favor.

Judge Hosey ruled the question inadmissible, and Graham did not answer.

The DA then asked, “Which do you value most: some chickens or a man’s life?”

Graham did not answer.

Graham testified: “I shot Haynie to protect my life.”

Hanger countered: “You shot Haynie because his chickens tore up your garden, and not only that, but you shot Haynie four times in the back.”

Graham said that when he went to Haynie’s house to complain about the chickens, “Haynie cursed me and threatened my life.”

Hanger said: “Isn’t it a fact that you threatened Haynie’s life, and when he went to your home to get his chickens out of the garden you shot him in the back?”

Graham countered that he shot Haynie because Haynie had thrown rocks at him and had made a “hip pocket” move for a pistol.

Dr. M. A. Griffith testified for the state, saying that Haynie had been shot once in the chest and four times in the back.

J. H. Graham was found guilty of the murder of David Lester Haynie and sentenced to life in prison.

But after more than a year in county jail Graham was freed on bond after his life sentence was reversed and a new trial ordered.

In his second murder trial Graham was again found guilty but sentenced to only twenty-five years in prison.

After another year in county jail Graham was granted a third trial and again found guilty but sentenced to only ten years in prison.

Nonetheless Graham was crestfallen, saying that if acquitted he had planned to study for the ministry.

After his third conviction Graham gave up his right to appeal, saying he was penniless.

But then came Christmas 1926. Santa Claus, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Governor Miriam A. Ferguson, gave J. H. Graham the best gift of all: executive clemency.

Graham resumed his life in Fort Worth. By 1927 he was manager of a drugstore.

David Lester Haynie is buried in Bolivar Cemetery in Denton County.

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2 Responses to “Your Daddy Killed My Daddy”: A Deadly Game of Chicken

  1. Ronny Clark says:

    The head stone states that David Haynie died in 1924, how do you explain that given the 1927 city directory reference?

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